Reflection for Advent 3: Friday (John 5.33-36)

Reading: John 5.33-36

Jesus said to the Jews: ‘You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But I have a testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me.’

John 5.33-36 NRSV


I wonder if you have ever been astounded by a stage magician, one of those who have perfected the art of deceiving the senses and the experiences of their audiences. As they work their ‘magic’ they lead us down paths that defy all logic as well as the natural sciences. Then as each trick is carefully and adeptly performed we find ourselves gasping with amazement at the deception that has been worked on us. We know that what we have seen cannot possibly be true, but we are invariably left asking the question: ‘How on earth was that done?’

Throughout the gospel narrative we hear accounts of Jesus performing signs and wonders that fly in the face of human understanding. From his first sign, the changing of water into the finest of wines, through many moments of his healing those who were deemed to be incurable, until we come to the great victory of the resurrection, we find ourselves joining those who are amazed by stage magicians as we also say: ‘How on earth was that done?’

Of course, Jesus was not, and is not, a stage magician. Jesus’ works are works of renewal and redemption, they are not skilful sleights of hand or acts of intentional misdirection. Jesus’ works, as he tells us in today’s reading: testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. As we continue our journey through Advent we hear Jesus speak of John the Baptist, the forerunner spoken of in the ancient prophecies as: a burning and shining light. But, Jesus goes on to say that he has a testimony greater than John’s.

As we enter the final days of our preparation for Christmas, we are being challenged to make a decision. We are being challenged to decide between the deceptive glitz and glamour of the world in which we live and the truth that has been revealed in Jesus Christ. We are being challenged to choose between the superficial distraction of the worldly stage magician and the life-changing wonders that we could experience if we journeyed faithfully as disciples of Christ. The decision is ours to make. Let us pray that we might choose the right path today, and in the times to come.